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Archive for December 23rd, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide Review: Various Artists, “The South Side of Soul Street”

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South Side of Soul StreetThe trusty musical archaeologists at the Omnivore label have the perfect stocking stuffer for those looking for a little bit of southern soul hung by the chimney with care.  The 2-CD anthology  The South Side of Soul Street (OVCD-68, 2013), collecting the A- and B-sides of 20 singles released by the Minaret label between 1967 and 1976, makes the argument that Valparaiso, Florida’s Playground Recording Studio deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Muscle Shoals, American Sound, Stax and Hi.

Founded in Nashville in the early 1960s, the Minaret label was purchased in 1966 by Finley Duncan.  Three years later, the producer-entrepreneur founded Playground, where he specialized in smokin’ R&B grooves.   Though none of Minaret’s artists broke through to the top echelon of soul music, The South Side of Soul Street still shows off some of the best southern soul you’ve never heard – with the genre’s trademark smoldering vocals, taut guitars, dirty brass, funky bass, tinkling piano or churchy organ.Why didn’t Minaret break through to the big time?  It’s hard to say, based on these forty mini-treasures.  Most likely, the vocalists’ styles weren’t distinctive enough, while most of the songs simply don’t stack up to the greatest works of Willie Mitchell, Isaac Hayes and David Porter, or Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham (who is actually represented on this disc).  But there’s still the real joy of discovery in finding just how good these lesser-known artists with names like Big John Hamilton, Genie Brooks, Doris Allen and Leroy Lloyd actually were.

After the jump, we’ll trek to Soul Street with the Minaret gang! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 23, 2013 at 14:11

Holiday Gift Guide Review: “Here’s Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection”

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Here's EdieIn one of the many testimonials that enhance the booklet to the first-ever DVD release of Here’s Edie: The Edie Adams Television Collection, Carl Reiner may have put it best and most succinctly: “Edie Adams…a combination of beauty, brains and talent…what else do you need?”  Based on the evidence in this thoroughly delightful 4-DVD, 12-hour, 21-episode set now available from MVD Visual (MVD 59200), you don’t need anything else.  Adams just about had it all, and showed it off for the 1962-1964 television variety show.  Here’s Edie aired on Thursday nights, alternating weeks with Sid Caesar’s program on ABC.  It was good company, indeed.

“Variety” was the emphasis of Adams’ sophisticated, unorthodox program.  Though entertainment was the primary objective, the trailblazing Adams also hoped that Here’s Edie would inform its audience.  Nobody stood in her way, not even from the network.  Rare for a female at the time who wasn’t Lucille Ball, Adams was given creative control of her show.  She produced it, owned it, and even designed her own wardrobe!  Jazz, classical and opera artists all got equal time alongside the expected pop stars.  A cursory glance at the guest stars featured on these DVDs reveals appearances by the illustrious likes of Duke Ellington, Andre Previn, Stan Getz, Laurindo Almeida, Charlie Byrd, Lionel Hampton, Nancy Wilson, and Lauritz Melchior, plus Sammy Davis, Jr., Bobby Darin, Johnny Mathis and John Raitt.

The singer-actress-comedienne was as much at home on television as she was on stage and on film.  She had appeared with her husband Ernie Kovacs on a variety of programs since the early days of television, and when Kovacs tragically perished in a car accident in 1962, Adams had no choice but to press forward.  Kovacs’ series Take a Good Look and ABC specials had been sponsored by Dutch Masters cigars; the brand’s parent, Consolidated Cigar, turned to Edie to become the spokeswoman for their Muriel brand.  Muriel sponsored Here’s Edie (renamed The Edie Adams Show in fall 1963) and the star’s association with Muriel would, remarkably, last till the 1990s.  The entertaining, musical Muriel spots are among the highlights of these discs.

We’ll look further after the jump! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 23, 2013 at 11:21